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Oil up to near $100 amid low holiday volume

Benchmark crude rose 21 cents Tuesday to $99.89 per barrel in New York. Brent crude rose 2 cents to $107.98 per barrel in London.

By PABLO GORONDI,
The Associated Press

12/27/2011

Oil prices inched up to near $100 a barrel Tuesday amid low holiday week trading volume.

Benchmark crude rose 21 cents Tuesday to $99.89 per barrel in New York. Brent crude rose 2 cents to $107.98 per barrel in London.

Global oil trading markets were closed Monday for the Christmas holiday.

Crude briefly popped above $100 on Friday amid growing evidence the U.S. economy is improving. Some analysts say concerns that Europe's debt crisis will trigger a recession on the continent next year will overshadow any positive news out of the U.S. this week.

"We don't expect this strength to be maintained this week given a likely shift in focus back toward the eurozone where major debt issues remain largely unresolved," energy consultant Ritterbusch and Associates said in a report.

The growing sectarian crisis in Iraq and the diplomatic standoff with Western powers caused by Iran's nuclear ambitions helped support oil prices.

"The strong uptick in sectarian violence across Iraq is a serious cause for concern, as it could set back Iraqi production targets by years and potentially even jeopardize up to 2.5 million barrels a day of exports," said a report from JBC Energy in Vienna. "Iran also presents a major wild card."

Because many traders are on vacation this week, trading volume is sharply lower and a few trades could jolt prices.

"Volume will be thin through this abbreviated week," energy consultant and trader The Schork Group said in a report. "As such, the potential exists for some wild swings."

In other Nymex trading, heating oil rose 0.33 cent to $2.9028 per gallon and gasoline futures fell 0.78 cent at $2.6703 per gallon. Natural gas futures were down 0.2 cent to $3.112 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Alex Kennedy in Singapore contributed to this report.